Transfer Entropy Analysis of Interactions between Bats Using Position and Echolocation Data

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Many animal species, including many species of bats, exhibit collective behavior where groups of individuals coordinate their motion. Bats are unique among these animals in that they use the active sensing mechanism of echolocation as their primary means of navigation. Due to their use of echolocation in large groups, bats run the risk of signal interference from sonar jamming. However, several species of bats have developed strategies to prevent interference, which may lead to different behavior when flying with conspecifics than when flying alone. This study seeks to explore the role of this acoustic sensing on the behavior of bat pairs flying together. Field data from a maternity colony of gray bats (Myotis grisescens) were collected using an array of cameras and microphones. These data were analyzed using the information theoretic measure of transfer entropy in order to quantify the interaction between pairs of bats and to determine the effect echolocation calls have on this interaction. This study expands on previous work that only computed information theoretic measures on the 3D position of bats without echolocation calls or that looked at the echolocation calls without using information theoretic analyses. Results show that there is evidence of information transfer between bats flying in pairs when time series for the speed of the bats and their turning behavior are used in the analysis. Unidirectional information transfer was found in some subsets of the data which could be evidence of a leader–follower interaction.



transfer entropy, bat swarms, animal group interaction, 3D tracking, microphone arrays


Shaffer, I.; Abaid, N. Transfer Entropy Analysis of Interactions between Bats Using Position and Echolocation Data. Entropy 2020, 22, 1176.